URC: Bulls clinch home play-off with high-scoring Benetton win

URC: Bulls clinch home play-off with high-scoring Benetton win

The Bulls booked a home tie in the United Rugby Championship play-offs after beating Benetton 56-35 at Loftus Versfeld.

In a fast-paced and entertaining match, the Bulls eventually outscored their Italian visitors by nine tries to five with David Kriel (2), Kurtley Arendse, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe and Johan Grobbelaar also crossing the whitewash while Johan Goosen slotted four conversions and Chris Smith added a penalty.

For Benetton, Onisi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi and Marco Zanon dotted down with Rhyno Smith succeeding with five conversions.

The Bulls were fastest out of the blocks and opened the scoring as early as the second minute when Moodie ran onto a pass from Embrose Papier, after a lineout on Benetton˜s five-metre line, and burst through two tackles before dotting down.

The home side spent most of the rest of the half camped inside their opponents™ half and held a 19-0 lead by the 20th minute after Arendse and Kriel scored five-pointers in quick succession.

And they secured their bonus point by the 25th minute when their captain, Nortje, rounded off in style after Willie le Roux bamboozled the Benetton defence with some deft footwork in the build-up.

Benetton then had a chance to open their account when Gianmarco Lucchesi made a superb line break inside the Bulls 22. However, the Italy hooker opted to take the ball into contact when the better option would have been to offload to Leonardo Marin, who was in the clear on his inside.

Despite that setback, Benetton did not panic and shortly afterwards they opened their account when Ratave crossed the whitewash on the hour mark.

The Bulls did not take long to respond as Moodie cantered in for his second try, in the 36th minute, but Benetton finished the half stronger and were rewarded when Lucchesi crossed the whitewash which meant the home side held a 31-14 lead at the interval.

The visitors began the second half in a similar fashion to how they finished the first when Uren scored his try five minutes after the restart but the Bulls replied with tries from Van der Merwe and Kriel which gave them a 43-21 lead by the 55th minute.

Two minutes later, Moodie sealed his hat-trick after Papier and Kriel combined brilliantly in the build-up but despite trailing by more than 20 points, Benetton did not surrender.

And their efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute when Halafihi went over for their bonus-point try but despite the match drawing to a close, there was still plenty of excitement to come.

In the 72nd minute, Smith added a penalty, which brought up a half-century of points for the Bulls, before Zanon added some respectability to the visitors™ score when he crossed for their fifth try.

The home side would have the last laugh though and sealed a deserved victory when Grobbelaar crossed for his try in the game™s dying moments.

The result means the Bulls have secured a home fixture in the United Rugby Championship˜s quarter-finals ahead of the last round of matches in a fortnight™s time.

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